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Slow down to honor veterans

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Archer Road's permanent 'welcome home' parade

On your next drive along State Road 24, better known as Archer Road, to or from Gainesville, take your foot off the gas pedal and spend a few moments checking out a memorial to those who gave their lives in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The information that follows comes from the Gainesville Fisher House folks who provide a "home away from home" for veterans and their families being treated at Malcolm Randall Medical Center in Gainesville — on Archer Road.

Each day, exactly 136 Alachua County veterans stand tall along Archer Road, preparing to guide future North Florida/South Georgia Fisher House guests to their temporary "home away from home." 

These veterans are timeless. They are strong, gallant and deeply rooted within the community. They take on fierce thunderstorms, powerful winds, sporadic night freezes and unbearable heat with honor and grace. They greet the daily passerby with selfless bundles of shade and protection, and they never ask for anything in return.

They've served our great country and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. They're neither flesh nor blood no more....

They're trees!

On Memorial Day of 2002, the Korean War Veterans Association, James A. Van Fleet Chapter 267, planted 136 trees along Archer Road, near the intersection of Southwest 23rd Terrace. The trees represent the 136 Alachua County soldiers who lost their lives in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. 

Each tree honors a heroic tale of struggle, triumph and commitment.

Every year, members of the association tie yellow ribbons around these special trees to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers. 

Unbeknown to the local association, the path they've planted leads directly to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center and the site of the future North Florida/South Georgia Fisher House, and it provides future guests and their families with rich history and inspiration as they begin their stay.

The Gainesville Fisher House Foundation encourages you to slow down the next time you choose to drive on Archer Road. Take the time to acknowledge the 136 veterans adorning your path; their sacrifice deserves a second look.